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Understanding Section 8 Housing

Section 8 Housing, also referred to as Welfare, provides housing assistance to very low-income families in order to provide safe, sanitary and decent housing opportunities. Through subsidized housing, the program provides rental assistance for many different types of housing, including townhouses, apartments and single-family homes.

If a family is eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher, housing subsidy is paid directly to a landlord by the Public Housing Agency (PHA) on behalf of the participating family. While the program does not pay entire rental amounts, Section 8 assistance can aid families in rising out of poverty by offering more affordable housing opportunities while a family remains eligible for the program.

What is Section 8?

Each year, Section 8 Housing provides assistance to millions of very low income families across the United States. In fact, over 17 billion dollars in funding is distributed towards the program each year. Originally started during the Great Depression period, this subsidy program seeks to increase the production of low income housing and assist qualifying families in rental payments.

Section 8 rentals include, but are not limited to:

  • Single family homes.
  • Apartments.
  • Townhomes.

However, not every available property or rental can participate in Section 8. Only landlords and properties that have been approved for this program can be rented by Section 8 participants.

To obtain income-based housing, families must meet several eligibility requirements, including familial, income and work-related requirements. If you are considering submitting an application for Section 8, then it is important to first review these eligibility requirements as well as learn more about how the program works and the benefits that it can provide.

How does a Housing Choice Voucher function?

If a family is approved to receive a Housing Choice Voucher by a local Public Housing Agency, the family will be approved to move into a pre-approved housing location. The family will receive a pre-determined amount of rental assistance each month to help cover the cost of rent and utilities. Section 8 Housing payments are made directly to the landlord from the PHA on behalf of the participating tenant.

The participating family will then be responsible for the difference between the actual housing costs and the amount subsidized by the program. In certain cases, the PHA may also authorize a family to use a voucher towards the purchase of a modest home.

Learn About Income Requirements

To obtain income based housing, your household must meet income based eligibility requirements. Income limits vary by state and county. However, a family’s income cannot exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where the family intends to live. Additionally, the Public Housing Agency is required by law to provide at least 75 percent of available vouchers to households with income that does not exceed 30 percent of the area’s medium income level.

Section 8 Housing is designed to provide the neediest of families and households. Therefore, while you may qualify for assistance with an income between 31 and 50 percent of the area’s medium income level, you may be placed on a waiting list, depending on the area and applicants. The amount of families that can receive housing assistance at any given time from this program will vary by area.

What are Family Makeup Requirements?

To qualify for Section 8 apartments, a household must meet familial makeup requirements. Generally, to qualify for assistance, your household must be considered a family, an elderly household or disabled household. To be considered a family household, a dependent child must live within the home. To be considered an elderly household, an elderly person who is over 62 years of age must be the head of household or the spouse of the head of household.

A disabled household has similar requirements to that of an elderly household. In order for a household to be considered a disabled household, a single person, head of household or the spouse of the head of household must be classified as disabled.

Your local Section 8 office can help you to determine what type of household that you qualify as. If your household does not qualify as one of the approved types of households, you will be ineligible to receive rental assistance under this program.

After submitting an application for Section 8 Housing, your eligibility will be determined by the PHA that is serving our community. Your PHA will need to verify your eligibility requirements with other local agencies, your employer and your financial institution.

How to Apply for Section 8 Housing

You can submit a Section 8 application by contacting your local Public Housing Agency. You will be required to visit an office in person to submit an application and you may be required to complete an eligibility interview with a PHA representative. Application methods and requirements can vary by county location.

After you apply for Section 8, it is very important that you provide the PHA with any documentation that they may request, including:

  • Proof of identity documents (State Driver’s License, ID, Passport, Social Security Number, etc.).
  • Proof of familial makeup (Birth certificates).
  • Proof of income (W-2, paystubs, tax forms etc.).

Any delay in receiving your supporting documentation could potentially delay your application. If you do not provide the PHA with requested documentation, your application could be denied.

Learn About the Section 8 Waiting List and Who Has Priority

If you are found eligible for Section 8 Housing, you will either receive assistance immediately or you will be put onto a waiting list until assistance becomes available. Each county can only provide assistance to a limited number of families at any given time. Long waiting periods are fairly common. You could remain on a Section 8 housing list for weeks, months or even years. Once assistance becomes available, you will be contacted by your local PHA.

Section 8 requirements, such as income levels, are often one common factor in determining priority when it comes to the waiting list. However, each individual PHA has the ability to establish local preferences for selecting applicants from the waiting list. In some cases, a PHA may give preference to households that are currently homeless or living in substandard housing, paying more than 50 percent of the household’s income towards rent or are involuntarily displaced. Families and households that qualify for local preferences will receive assistance before those that do not, regardless of who was put on the waiting list first.
When applying for Section 8 Housing, you are encouraged to apply to multiple PHAs, when available, such as when living in a metropolitan area or having flexibility for the county or area that you wish to live in. By applying for assistance through multiple PHAs, your household will be more likely to receive assistance, depending on the area and your household’s qualifications.